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Lebanon's entire government resigns as a result of the Beirut explosion


BACKGROUND

• The catastrophic Beirut blasts that occurred on August 4th, 2020 resulted in shattering windows more than a mile away and sent out a plume of smoke and debris soaring above the city’s tallest buildings. The impact of the blast was so powerful that it was even felt at least 150 miles away in Cyprus. This incident resulted in the death of more than 200 dead, 6000 injured and dozens missing. More than 300,000 others have lost their homes.

• According to the Lebanese government, the source of the explosion was 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, an explosive chemical often used as fertilizer and sometimes in bombs, which had been stored in the port warehouse after being confiscated from an abandoned Russian-owned ship in 2014. In the following years, court records show, senior customs officials had tried and failed to win court permission to remove the dangerous stockpile by donating it to the Lebanese army or selling it to the privately-owned Lebanese Explosives Company.

• Many have pointed out that the reason for the occurrence of the incidence is due to the government’s poor governance. The rising anger of the citizens resulted in the government resigning.

AFTERMATH OF THE EXPLOSION

• The explosion that took place reignited the anti-government protests in Lebanon where thousands of protesters came out on streets to protest against the governance of the Lebanese government.

• Many accused the country’s leaders of culpability through their alleged negligence and corruption.

• The protest which began peacefully turned violent with the police launching teargas canisters at protesters, who lobbed back firecrackers and rubble in return.

LEBANON’S LONG-RUNNING PROTESTS

• The protests in Lebanon started in October 2019 after the government announced plans for new taxes during the 2020 budget season, on everything from tobacco to social media platforms like WhatsApp. Public anger escalated and expanded to wide-scale protests against an unstable economy, sectarian rule, unemployment and corruption, and also compelled a shake-up of the country’s leadership.

• The mass protest went on for several weeks, petered down closer to Christmas and New Year, only to restart by the middle of January. In March this year, Lebanon’s government put the country in a state of emergency to combat the spread of coronavirus, closing land and seaports, and causing concerns that this would cause a further setback to an already beleaguered country. Lebanon’s financial crisis resulted in a sovereign debt default and also affected its currency’s value.

• During the emergency, the government even ordered for the removal of the protest camps which was interpreted by the citizens to suppress the protests.

PRIME MINISTER’S VIEW

• Lebanon's prime minister Hassan Diab announced his government’s resignation.

• He said that his government had "gone to great lengths to lay out a road map to save the country".

• But corruption in Lebanon was "bigger than the state" itself, and "a very thick and thorny wall separates us from change; a wall fortified by a class that is resorting to all dirty methods in order to resist and preserve its gains", he said.

• "They knew that we pose a threat to them, and that the success of this government means a real change in this long-ruling class whose corruption has asphyxiated the country," he added.

• "Today we follow the will of the people in their demand to hold accountable those responsible for the disaster that has been in hiding for seven years, and their desire for real change," Mr Diab said.

WHAT NEXT?

• According to BBC sources, the parliament will now have to decide on a new prime minister.

• This process is going to be tough considering the existing complex political system as the power in Lebanon is shared between leaders representing the country’s different religious groups.

• Additionally, after the end of the 1975-1990 civil war, many warlords entered politics and still control large part of the country’s political, economic and social sectors.

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